Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A Ballet School for Freetown?

The Cotton Tree where the Sierra Leonean nation was founded
Source Wikipedia

Although ballet belongs to the world there are places where the muse makes its home. In the early 19th century that home was in Denmark. Later in the century the muse moved to Russia, Diaghilev brought it to Western Europe and in particular England and France. In the last century it made its way to the New World. Arguably it has now found a home in East Asia and in Latin America. I believe its next abode will be Sub-Saharan Africa.

There are already signs that that is happening. Arguably the most exciting company in the British Isles is Ballet Black. In America there is the magnificent Dance Theatre of Harlem and Alvin Ailey. In just over a week London audiences will be thrilled by the Sierra Leonean born dancer Michaela DePrince as I was when I saw her last November (see "The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam 24 Nov 2013"  25 Nov 2913), Finally there are initiatives like Anno's Africa's remarkable class in the back streets of Nairobi (see "What can be achieved by a good teacher" 3 March 2014),

According to The Guardian's Africa correspondent, Michaela DePrince "plans to return to Sierra Leone one day to open a school" (see "Sierra Leone war orphan returns to Africa en pointe for ballet debut" 16 July 2912).  DePrince has achieved so much in her short life that I have every confidence that she will realize that plan. We in this country are particularly well placed to help her to do so.

Sierra Leone is an English speaking country which was administered by our government until 1961. It is a member of the Commonwealth and many of its political, educational, commercial and cultural institutions are modelled on ours. There is a large Sierra Leonean community in this country two members of which will be accompanying me to the Linbury to see De Prince dance when the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company visits London on the 28 and 29 of the month.  I have a personal link with Sierra Leone in that I was married to a Sierra Leonean for nearly 28 years.

If children from DePrince's school wish to complete their training we have great ballet schools in London, Leeds, Glasgow and elsewhere where they can do so. The Royal Academy of Dance which accredits teachers and examines students is here.  Above all we have a massive and sophisticated audience for dance and out great companies have always been open to, and attracted, the best dancers in the world.

There must be a massive reservoir of talent in Africa and the prospect of watching it develop is exciting.

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